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Obligations for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas 2023
Do I have to go to Mass twice this weekend on Christmas?
Given that Christmas falls the day after the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year, the obligation might be confusing to some. Indeed the Year 2023 is rare in our liturgical calendar that the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve fall on the same day. This happens about every six or seven years. According to the law of the Church, which is based on divine law, Catholics are required to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday and on other days of precept, which we know as holy days of obligation. Christmas is a day of precept whose obligation is never lifted. Therefore, all Catholics must attend Mass the weekend of December 23/24, for the Fourth Sunday of Advent; and also for the Solemnity of Christmas on December 24/25.
The Sunday obligation can be fulfilled by going to Mass on Saturday evening, Dec. 23 or anytime on Sunday, Dec. 24. The Christmas obligation can be fulfilled by going to Mass on Sunday evening, Dec. 24, or anytime on Monday Dec. 25. So, to give two examples: The faithful may attend a Christmas Eve Vigil Mass to fulfill the Sunday, Dec. 24 obligation; and then go to a Christmas Day Mass on Monday, Dec. 25 to fulfill the Christmas obligation. Or attend Mass on Sunday morning, Christmas Eve, to fulfill the Fourth Sunday of Advent obligation and then attend the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass that evening to fulfill the Christmas obligation. (If this combination is chosen, the Eucharist may be received at both Masses, providing those are the only two instances of receiving the Lord in the Eucharist that day.)
The Committee for Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published this information: “The prevailing view of many canon lawyers is that each obligation must be fulfilled with a separate Mass. Thus, when consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations….Aside from canonical requirements. It would be commendable, of course, that Catholics foster a love for the Sacred Liturgy and hold a desire to celebrate the holy days as fully as is reasonably possible.”
No matter how it is accomplished, the key is that the two obligations must be fulfilled separately. No matter how busy we are during this season, we must remember why we gather and celebrate: the Birth of the Lord Jesus. Be sure to make the Masses of the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas a part of your Christmas plans.
Additionally, the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, falls on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. This year the obligation to attend Mass on this date is abrogated, in accord with the complementary norm to canon 1246 §2 confirmed for the Dioceses of the United States of America. Therefore, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God is not a holy day of obligation this liturgical year.
Wishing you joy with Christ’s blessing and peace to your heart this Christmas!